Former President Donald Trump kicked off a right-wing media tour on Wednesday, hitting up One America News, Newsmax, and Fox News for phone interviews after being largely absent from the public eye since leaving the White House.
And while the disgraced ex-president continued to spread debunked election conspiracies during a pair of pre-taped interviews with Newsmax and OAN on Wednesday night, Trump steered clear of directly mentioning the voting software companies that had been at the heart of his most deranged voter fraud lies.
According to a source familiar with the matter, Trump has recently been reminded that he shouldn’t mention, and definitely not call out by name, Dominion Voting Systems or Smartmatic during new media interviews or public appearances.
Earlier in the day, the former president broke his weeks-long media silence when he called into Fox News to talk about conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh’s death from lung cancer. The Wednesday afternoon Fox chat, which eventually devolved into Trump peddling the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, was his first television interview since before the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection that he incited.
Prior to Wednesday, Trump’s only two television interviews were a Nov. 29 live call-in with pro-Trump Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo and a mid-December chat outside the Army-Navy game with Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, which was aired in snippets that weekend.
Following his decisive election loss to Joe Biden in November, Trump largely avoided traditional media as he spent months obsessively and falsely insisting that the election was “rigged” and Biden only won via widespread voter fraud. Those unfounded allegations—colloquially known as the “Big Lie”—eventually led to a deadly insurrectionist riot by his followers, the loss of his beloved Twitter account, and his second impeachment.
In his pre-taped chats with Newsmax’s Greg Kelly and OAN’s Jenn Pellegrino, the former president mostly tread the same ground he laid during his Fox News afternoon interview. Invoking the late radio host, he told Pellegrino that Limbaugh agreed with him that “we were robbed” and that the election was stolen by Biden.
“We did win the elections far as I'm concerned,” Trump told Kelly in their interview. “It was disgraceful what happened, totally disgraceful, but Rush wanted to get there by the election and he did it and was proud of that. But he thought the result was a disgrace.”
Insisting that it “was a stolen, fixed, rigged election,” Trump went on to take aim at his 2016 Democratic opponent, quipping that Hillary Clinton was likely upset that Democrats didn’t “create votes” for her.
During his live call-in to close confidant Sean Hannity’s show later in the evening, meanwhile, Trump and the Fox host completely avoided the topic of the election altogether.
Hannity wrapped up the short chat, which focused completely on Limbaugh’s career, by letting the ex-president know that any other discussions would be for another time.
“I know you said in the months ahead, you have a lot you want to tell us and we won't do it tonight obviously,” the Fox star said. “But when that time comes, we are looking forward to hearing what your future plans are, and what you are planning to do.”
And notably, throughout all the interviews, Trump did not mention Dominion or Smartmatic.
The two companies have been waging legal campaigns and lawsuits against Trumpworld luminaries who promulgated baseless conspiracy theories that the voting tech companies had helped steal and rig the 2020 election in Biden’s favor. Then-President Trump himself had promoted such claims, and some of his allies being sued, such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, were also spewing these groundless smears.
Some of those still close to the former president worry that if Trump were to publicly go after Dominion or Smartmatic now—absent the considerable legal protection that comes with being a sitting president—his words could be used against him if either company wants to sue him, several people with knowledge of the situation say.
All three networks that Trump appeared on Wednesday night—One America News, Newsmax, and Fox News—have been threatened by Dominion and Smartmatic with legal action for their baseless election claims against the voting software companies.
Smartmatic, meanwhile, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, several of its hosts, Giuliani and Powell earlier this month. Fox News has since filed a motion to dismiss, claiming the suit is “meritless” and “strikes at the heart of the First Amendment” while defending its election coverage.
Trump’s pre-taped interviews with OAN and Newsmax come after Newsmax experienced an on-air fiasco of sorts during a live interview earlier this month. Newsmax anchor Bob Sellers resorted to shouting over Mike Lindell when the MyPillow CEO began spouting conspiracies about Dominion, prompting Sellers to read an on-air disclaimer before literally walking out of the interview on live TV. (Lindell has since been sued by Dominion.)
OAN, for its part, has publicly doubled down on its voter fraud claims while refusing to run any of the fact-check or statements debunking the bogus voting machine allegations made about Smartmatic and Dominion. At the same time, however, the network has quietly deleted articles about the companies while adding a lengthy disclaimer when airing Lindell’s conspiratorial “docu-movie” about election fraud.